FCC Frees White Space Spectrum for Wireless Broadband Service
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Weeks ago, countless Americans were glued to their television sets watching election coverage and waiting anxiously for the presidential results, but little did they know another important vote was taking place at the Federal Communications Commission. By a unanimous vote of 5-0, the FCC officially agreed to open up the “white spaces” spectrum, making it available for wireless broadband -- unlicensed and free to everybody. This article will explain what white space is, and why you should care.
What is white space exactly? It is slivers of unused spectrum that sit between licensed broadcast channels. The idea of freeing up what basically amounts to blank space may not seem like too hard of a decision to make, according to Americans who are set to benefit from the vote and use the white space just as they already use Wi-Fi, WiMax and 3G wireless technologies, but the decision did not come without controversy.
TV broadcasters and wireless microphone companies have long opposed the use of this spectrum, saying it will interfere with their services. Similar interference issues were a concern when the FCC was considering the use of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, though those technologies have caused no interference and nothing but commerce.
Months prior to the vote, several lawmakers and professional sports organizations urged the FCC to delay the vote on opening white spaces for unlicensed use. One of those in opposition to the freeing up of the space was the Sports Technology Alliance, which is a trade group that represents eight major sports leagues including the NFL, MLB, NBA and NASCAR. Several members of Congress, including eight who signed a single letter, as well as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Michigan), also sent letters to the FCC asking the agency to delay the November 4 vote on a white-space proposal. The congressional leaders and sports leagues joined the National Association of Broadcasters in asking for a 60-day comment period on the proposal.
To the dismay of those in opposition, the comment trial obviously did not pass, which is not to say the final ruling did not please countless others. Some technology companies, who acted as the original catalyst for the freeing of the space, were elated with the decision made by the FCC.
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